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Nobody knows the weather like a farmer

Erica Louder for Progressive Forage Published on 09 May 2019
cattle in pasture

He stayed up past midnight to fertilize the pastures because according to the AccuWeather app, rain was supposed to start by 8 a.m. Perfect timing to dissolve the pellets. My iPhone weather app didn’t show any rain expected until the next evening. But he claims the AccuWeather app is always more accurate. 

“Don’t they all get their data from the National Weather Service?” I asked. “Theoretically, the reports should be the same.” 

“AccuWeather interpretation of the data is better,” he argues, for at least the 100th time. 

The funny thing is, the only reason he uses the AccuWeather app instead of the native weather app on his iPhone is because a couple of iPhones ago, he accidently deleted the app. He downloaded AccuWeather in replacement. Since then, a weekly discussion has ensued on who was more accurate – AccuWeather or Apple. 

We have a home weather station too. It’s nothing fancy, just one of the Costco specials, but we are obsessed with it. Our conversations often start off with, “Did you know we got 1/10 of an inch of rain last night?” or “Apparently, we had 30 mph winds yesterday afternoon, felt more like 60 out at the dairy.” 

The problem with the weather station is that in order for the display monitor to be close enough to the actual station situated on top of our barn, it needs to sit in our laundry room. On the rare occasion I do a little ironing, I have to unplug the weather station to plug in the iron. I only recently realized this action deleted all the data, and the tracking mechanism started over on Jan. 1st, totally throwing off the annual stats. It’s a very frustrating dilemma, but I am happy to forgo ironing. 

I know we aren’t the only farmers obsessed with weather data. Since Benjamin Franklin’s “ye olde” almanac (actually, probably long before that), farmers have meticulously tracked the weather. The entire premise of their planting and harvesting schedules were based on the historical weather reports tracked in weather journals, passed down from generation to generation.

Truthfully, this isn’t much different than how the weatherman predicts our weather now. Based on historical data of similar conditions, he makes his predictions. And the cool thing is, accuracy in the weather report is improving. Modern computers get better and better at computing all that historical data. I recently listened to a cool podcast on the subject. If you are a data and weather nerd like me, check out The Storm is Coming by Michael Lewis. It’s on Audible, and it’s fascinating. 

It did rain, but not until the afternoon. AccuWeather’s prediction was almost right, at least on our farm, if not for the entire community. Before the rain began (and frustrated by the lack of rain), my farmer took off to truck some cows a couple of miles into nearby Jerome. When it started to pour, I called him, conceding to him and AccuWeather the victory. He didn’t understand since it wasn’t raining in Jerome. However, when he arrived home, he drove through newly made puddles. The pastures were fertilized, and the battle of the weather prediction continues on our farm.  end mark 

Erica Louder is a freelance writer based in Idaho. Email Erica Louder.

PHOTO: If nobody knows the weather like a farmer, then why is he always caught in the field when it rains? Photo by Erica Louder.